Friday, February 24, 2012

Nordic festival makes an impact

Occupancy rates indicate spike in visitors


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer


The Sun Valley Nordic Festival, held Jan. 28 through Feb. 5 this year, drew thousands of visitors for nine days of celebrations and activities, culminating in the Boulder Mountain Tour Nordic ski race. Those visitors helped showcase the area's Nordic offerings while helping to boost business around the valley.

The highest occupancy rates in winter are Thanksgiving and Christmas—but also during the tour.

Data on hotel occupancy rates from November through mid-February, collected by the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, indicate the festival had a part in drumming up activity on par with, or greater than, other peak winter periods. The data are gathered from voluntary, anonymous submissions to the Marketing Alliance by hotels.

Festival organizers condensed that data into weekend occupancy rates this winter. They show hotel occupancy in Ketchum and Sun Valley during this year's festival at a little over 60 percent, which exceeded the Thanksgiving occupancy rate of about 55 percent, though it fell short of the Christmas holiday occupancy rate of 80 percent.

The occupancy rate in Hailey actually exceeded that of Christmas—by a rate of almost 50 percent compared to less than 45 percent, according to the Marketing Alliance data.

"A year ago the city put $10,000 into the Sun Valley Nordic Festival to assist with the Boulder Mountain Tour for prize money," Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi said during a council meeting last week. "It was an investment that the city felt was important to help promote that aspect of tourism."

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It was an investment, he said, that paid off.

"The occupancy rate that we had during the Boulder tour, which actually went over two weekends ... was higher than the occupancy rate that we had over Thanksgiving," he said.

The race had nearly 1,000 registered participants, 75 percent of whom came from out of the area.

"We absolutely know there's a good number of people coming into town for the Boulder (Mountain Tour)," said Jim Keating, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District.

A broad scope of organizers worked to provide activities for non-racing attendees, too, locals and visitors alike, he said.

"We want to connect with visitors, [encourage] them to stay a little longer and have more for their families to do," he said. "It's as much about using the festival as a punctuating event for the brand Nordic Town USA as it is about purely bringing visitors to town during that week."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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